Looking back on my childhood, I distinctly remember two things about the season of Lent. The first was choosing to give up something that I enjoyed for forty days (typically this was chocolate, candy, or even a favorite TV show). The second thing was, once Lent was over, the fun of Easter egg hunts, dressing up in our Sunday best, and finally being able to enjoy whatever it was that I had sacrificed for so many weeks. I knew the main reason behind the traditions—Jesus’ death and resurrection—but I don’t think I ever fully understood what Lent was really all about. This led me to wonder what children today know about Lent. So I enlisted help from my friends to ask their own children this important question.
“What is Lent?”
- “Jesus died on the cross,” said a three-year-old.
- “It’s when you get a cross on your forehead. That Jesus rose from the dead. It’s forty days. You give something up because Jesus gave Himself up for us,” answered a six-year-old.
- “I don’t know,” one four-year-old replied.
- “It’s when you give up something you like and then you get to find Easter eggs!” responded a seven-year-old.
I was impressed with many of the responses, but I also wondered how we should teach Lent so that kids have a better understanding of the significance of the season. As many of us know, teaching children, especially about faith, requires creativity when it comes to explaining complex beliefs. How do we keep it simple, informative, and fun for kids? Let’s discuss a few options on teaching children about Lent.
Keep the Focus on Jesus’ Love for Them
When your lesson directly relates to the kids and how it affects their lives, they will have a sense of investment and can see how it influences their own world. Focus on what Jesus did for them, and for all of us, by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. When we explain that Jesus did these things to save us, not only will they have a better understanding of the Lenten season, they will also have a better understanding of their own relationship with Jesus and His unending love for them!
When teachers and parents alike put emphasis on sacrificing, fasting, or even Easter eggs, it could skew a young child’s understanding of the season. I often see children focusing on these aspects—as many times, they are easier for younger minds to comprehend—rather than reflecting on their relationship with Christ. Although these traditions are important and should be discussed, be sure to keep the main focus of Lent on Jesus and His love for us. The reason we have these Lenten traditions and Easter celebrations is because of Him and His ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
Teach Them How to Reflect
We, as adults, know that Lent should be a time of reflection on everything Jesus did for us as well as on our relationship with Him. But how do we communicate that idea to students? If they learn that Jesus died on the cross to save them, then teachers should also encourage them to use Lent as time to thank Jesus for what He did for us and to think about their connection with Him. Some questions to ask your students to help them reflect on Christ: When do you talk to Jesus? Where do you see Jesus in your life? How do you know that Jesus loves you? Who is Jesus to you? Help students think through how they see Jesus and His love in their lives and who He is in relationship to them (a sibling, a caregiver, a friend, a Savior).
Make It Fun!
I know that teaching about Lent may seem like a daunting task to teachers, given that it is a somber season, but I encourage you to keep it enjoyable. Create lessons that incorporate interactive activities such as coloring sheets, art projects, or even music and dancing! This will help keep your students engaged, participating, and eager to learn more!
Teaching your students about Lent should be a rewarding experience as a teacher. You get to help teach children about one of the most important times of the Church Year and, of course, about God’s saving love for us!
For more ideas and activities on how to teach children about Lent, check out the resources below.